desert landscape

 

Chapbooks (unpublished):
How Far Is the Moon?
Great Greats

Journal publications:
lo-ball, PANK, Off Channel, Terrain.org, Mercury Retrograde, Squaw Valley Review,
Crack the Spine, OccuPoetry

“Norma Jeane Mortenson” appeared in Crack the Spine, issue 112, May 7, 2014
“Mr. Elephant” appeared in Terrain.org, issue 34, Fall 2013
“How Far Is the Moon?” appeared in lo-ball magazine, issue 4, Fall 2012

-

Norma Jeane Mortenson

Butterfly bow shaped with
horsehair and ostrich feathers and wire.

The extra train
the halter neck laid flat against your chest

the pink gloves the black gloves
hidden hooks

$2.50 earrings sequin belt white fox stole
huge silk flowers

orphan clothes.

If i were naked i could be like the other girls.

Two old friends, hat
blue a feather.

Of ‘50
there was none around.

Popcorn falling
chair spring pokes.

"When will we see you?”

Riding sidesaddle weather monotonous
pomade so heavy.

Half buttons for nipples
skin-tight dahlia dress

skirt the censors.

Chiffon
single dropped jewel below the cleavage

the belt
the golden balls.

Radiating creases
and sequins spiraling in every direction.

 

Melva

Restless at school, the blue sweater mended, I stayed to wipe up
a spilled pool of black ink. Nothing to consider. Though considerate
Lorraine had met us there, after, at Rexall’s, scrimped for a treat.

Gramophones were right in the store, earmuffs for listening.
Haydn, Mozart—the name of Elsie’s street, but with a soft z. Thomas’ house
brightly lit, we met them there before the movie. Told Mom we were seeing

Garbo in The Painted Veil, but snuck off to Cleopatra instead.
Tremendous wind walking home. Glad to be tucked in bed. Tomorrow:
Lorraine’s, we'll meet them there, the two girls from math, won’t that be fun?

Tangerines in winter, my favorite. I woke up to cars buried in snow.

Pages float in my mind, music. I’ll learn to read them.
Beatrice from school has a piano at home, but we don’t know her. The math
girls don’t want to go to her piano recital. I don’t understand why not. Anyway, now

it’s cancelled because of last night’s blizzard. Dry cereal—the milkman must be stuck this morning. Everything is hushed. Listen… Pure white, the sun bounces off. Can we
play? We want to go run around in it. Snowdrifts up to the second story.

 

Katy loaned me her amber bead

…lost in thought, leaning upon her pitchfork, her sunbonnet lying beside her on the ground.
                                                                                             -Willa Cather, O Pioneers!

 

Sit awhile
                      the sound of animal toil,
when listening to it, listen to it

dop dop DOP    dop dop DOP DOP

ridiculous even to try
            which kind of animal?

a plant animal, one that has eaten resin

Squirrel?

mite of the poplar

acquaint the hogs (Ivar knows them)

Jay?

smell the musk, the honey
                      warm and charged

Woodpecker?

yellow cloud in Amber (Katy says
red cloud sunset caused by pollution
                                          unfortunate, lovely)
resin eats animals
            130 million years

What would Alexandra do? That serious ease so her

Amber bead in one
of three boxes, Katy
up past bedtime look-
ing for it to loan me,
jumble of pretty odds
seashells in a baggie,
if it has a pinhole
anything’s a bead

sit in the car, windows open, air
hot and still, the big Amber in my
hand, its weight – through the pin-
hole I see the flat tire of a CustomCamper,
dry leaves bunched around it

Waking up now
             afraid at first
       but the human noise is far in the distance

                   Spiders and fruit and hair

 

Paul Jennings*

Sukey, the house-servant, lolls out of a chamber window.

A tip-top man was secretary of the treasury,
but the British did arrive and ate up the dinner,
the very wines, for the President’s party.
Laughing over the subject, for years after.
A woman’s husband was out fighting,
she blamed Mrs. Madison “…so get out!”

Paul saw it in the house. Madison’s niece shaved him
on alternate days. “What is the matter, Uncle James?”
“A change of mind, my dear.”      He could not swallow.

Sukey, the house-servant, lolls out of a chamber window.

“Out of shadows, lost in slumber,” Daisy Ellington waited
for President Roosevelt to come by on his horse, while Duke
played baseball. (She was a slave’s daughter.) When she fell
out on the floor, so did the identical yellow bowl.
over 200 years oh my goodness look at this

With crews cleaning up they couldn’t go
two feet without finding Frankie Robinson.
There was a coach accident and the lamp was
significant. Raleigh found it in the attic.
“Mrs. Madison was a fine woman.”

They had Mr. Ellington from DC, the lady in blue,
and his mother Daisy over for the group photo.

“I like that song,” said Barbara Allen, Mildred Allen, Ron Springwater,
Jennifer and Hugh Allen, Samson Marshall, Raleigh Marshall, Rafael
Jenifer, Hugh Alexander, Fawn Jordan, Jazmine Allen, John Sales,
Kay Springwater, Nikki Marshall, Margaret Jordon, Angela Hayes,
Daryl Toliver, Lisa Collins, Elsie Harrison, Cindy Jenifer with
Jonah & Khadijah, and Yvonne Alexander.

In the background is the blurred image of Sukey,
the house-servant, lolling out of the chamber window.


*A slave in the White House in the early 19th century. Later freed. Wrote a reminiscence about serving The Madisons. A biography was published in 2012. The author contacted Jennings’ descendents who gathered for a photo.

 

Gable under the basement

                       Gable under the basement,
                      buried upside down,
             simple from naughtiness, it points to the
center, points
                beneath all the black
                                                                 pages float boots from childhood

paint nails with watercolor    green the nails

                                                            upstairs breakfast where the
                                                            inn is washed upside up
                                                            mums, fruitfuls drizzle
                                                                                           of creosote
                                                                                           travelers arrive but
                                                                                           take no notice

                                                                                           Beef Burgundy

          water seeps back to the bottom

                   hammers turquoise, white, blue

 

Mr. Elephant

                        Let’s try replacing the ears –
large flaps are prohibitive.
             Lizard-ears allow
nonstop listening:

pencil scratch earrings jangle baby smacking mouthfuls
It’s pleasant listening   all kinds.
                        Yes, we could give Elephant lizard-ears.

We could tell him what to do.
                                                 Clair de Lune.
Elephant, listen to Clair de Lune – it’s lovely!
             Will Elephant like music?
                         We don't know.

The trunk, how about the trunk.
             Huge brown eye, thoughtful (scheming?) Restless,
                        he rocks back and forth back and forth
            for ages.
OK, we’ll let him have his trunk.

It’s hot in the sun –
                         can he fan himself with music?
He doesn’t know – doesn’t appreciate his new ears.

Why all the rocking? Stand still.
             Leaving now, caravan style.
                        Just the one elephant, lumbering amidst us.
             He won’t if he doesn't eat.

*

Look, sweetie. See the elephant?
What does Elephant say?
Not moo, not shkree.

Little boy says
                          love you

Elephant says

                          forget

                                                forget


How Far Is the Moon?

They advised me to get a deal going with James James Morrison
Morrison. Or if not him, his cousin. Or his boss. Hell, I didn’t even
know these people.

There was that party, everyone was there, I could barely cross the
room. Ya get that deal yet? Some wouldn’t even let me answer.
They’d just grab a drink floating by.

A club formed for People Who Can’t Get a Deal. I was told I could
make some contacts there. They said I should join. But it got to be
just as crowded, everyone wanted to join, you couldn’t even move.

Try Bob, they told me. Bob has contacts. I waved my arms at him,
but he didn’t see me.

I had no idea what to do next. I thought I’d maybe kill myself. But
then you came along, and you wanted me to hold you. So I held
you, and that was good.

You told me I didn’t need a deal, I shouldn’t even want a deal.

And you told me we could each get a desk on the moon, and when
we weren’t working I could hold you.

No one had ever asked me to hold them before, and since it was
good, I agreed.

But I couldn’t work on the moon, and when I went to your desk
and tried to hold you, you said you were busy.

The sky’s always black here, I complained. That’s cuz there's no
atmosphere, stupid.


I couldn’t believe you called me stupid. I panicked. Why did we
come up here to the moon? It’s just a big white skull.

This is what’s stupid: We broke away from the comfort of those
clouds, we left the purples and yellows behind. You understand
that?

Think how it was before. Remember? In the daytime? We used to
blink at the salt, the salt that came down like snow from the sky.
The atmosphere reflected the sunlight. That was the deal. There
was nothing else to it. We were alive.

You probably don’t realize it, but I’m already back there now,
looking up.

I may be here and you may be there, but neither of us is in the
universe. That’s because the earth isn’t part of the universe, and
the moon isn’t either. The universe is too big. It can only contain
everything, and we aren’t everything.

So come down where I am, and let’s try doing that one thing. It’s
the only thing we have, in a universe that won’t have us.